View Full Version : Ninja Rewrite

2007-01-09, 08:42 PM
EDIT: Legibility!

So, after trying to make a ninja for a while for an online game, I've come to a conclusion: there are no decent ninja base classes in D&D. Why?

The CA Ninja is basically a rogue, except he's actually worse in melee (and rogues are already pretty bad there), as he can't wear light armour (wis to AC does not make up for this), his sudden strike is just sneak attack without the ability to get it by flanking, and he can't use as much weaponry. His skills are worse (6), as is his skill selection. He's got horrible MAD (just like a rogue, except he needs wisdom too to power his Ki abilities and give him some sembalence of an AC score), so hes going to have worse stats for his key areas, downgrading his melee and skill monkey abilties even further. Plus, he lacks some of the rogue's better high level abilities, like crippling strike, opportunist, and skill mastery.

And what does he get to make up for this? A cool and flavorfull ability to run up walls (which anyone with a one level dip in Psionic Warrior can get, not to mention anyone with slippers of spider climbing or a nearby wizard), the ability to turn invisible for a few rounds per day (which he needs to use if he ever plans on landing those sudden strikes, meaning he doesn't have it for other times), a few other abilities tied to his already very limited and overtaxed Ki Pool. Oh, and poison use, because we all know how incredibly helpful poison use is. Also, he can jump good and, at very high level, see invisible things, though magic items could easily give both those abilities.


You could make a far better ninja by just playing a Rogue 19/Psionic Warrior one (using that bonus feat for up the walls), and that's just lame.

And then, he's missing some abilities I'd consider pretty obviously necessary to be a ninja... namely the ability to run fast at all, and the ability to at least fight a little with martial arts. Also, note that he can't use a Katana, despite that picture. Katanas, by the way, are masterwork Broadswords. The best he can do is a shortsword. Yes yes, I know, it's more a Samurai thing, but remember, the idea in D&D is to make fantasy characters, and while real ninjas would have used a shorter weapon, fantasy ninjas use katanas.

The Rokugan Ninja, meanwhile ( http://l5r.alderac.com/rpg/rokugan_ninja.pdf ) can at least fight okay, but has only four skill points per level, which just won't cut it. Note also the lack of evasion (which the CA also doesn't get until high level for some bizarre reason). And let's face it, other than Shadow Run, there's just not a lot of ninja character in that ninja. Yay, they get blind fight, so they can fight in darkness... except wait, blind fight doesn't change the fact that sneak attack won't work, so no, no fighting in darkness for you Mr. Ninja.

But wait, there's also the Ninja Spy PrC from Oriental Adventures! Perhaps we could make a CA Ninja/R Ninja/Ninja Spy and actually get something cool! Well, no. For one thing, Ninja Spy requires Evasion to get into, which for some screwy reason the Rokugan Ninja doesn't even get, and the CA Ninja doesn't get till 12. This means we can't possibly get to the 8th level R Ninja speed boost and still do Ninja Spy at all. Also note the horrifically confused requirements. Rokugan Ninja must be non-lawful and evil (it's called Dishonerable in Rokugan), and Ninja Spy must be non Chaotic, tending towards Lawful. They really weren't sure on this whole alignment thing. That said, Ninja Spy is a very cool PrC, so it's something to look at.

Thus, with that rant out of the way, perhaps folks can understand why I want to rebuild him, make him better... we have the technology, and so forth. I'm going to base this on the CA Ninja (because he has more flavor) but with a few power ups and characterful abilities stolen from the Monk, Rokugan Ninja, and Oriental Adventures Ninja Spy (which is quite cool, but it's a PrC).

So, starting with the CA Ninja, we make the following changes.


Note for this write up that anything not in italics is found, unchanged, in the Complete Adventurer Ninja. Anything in bold was removed from that level (and placed in another level). Explanations of all abilities below.

Weapons and Armour: All simple weapons, plus the hand crossbow, kama, kukri, nunchaku, shortbow, shortsword, shuriken, saingham, and katana. They are not proficient with armour or shields.

Alignment: Any, as with the CA ninja.

HD: D6. Skills: 6 Per Level. Good Reflex Saves. 3/4 BAB. (all exactly as CA Ninja)

1: Ki Power, Sudden Strike +1d6, Trapfinding, Flurry of Blows, Unarmed Strike, Ninja Dodge +1 Removed: Wis to AC

2: Ghost Step (Invisible)

3: Sudden Strike +2d6, Poison Use

4: Great Leap, Leap of the Clouds, Int to AC, Slow Fall 20ft, Speed of Darkness

5: Sudden Strike +3d6, Ninja Dodge +2, +1AC Bonus, Ninja Dodge +2

6: Acrobatics +5, Ki Dodge, Slow Fall 30ft, Fast Movement +10[/i]

7: Sudden Strike +4d6, Speed Climb

8: Ghost Strike, Shadow Run, Slow Fall 40ft

9: Sudden Strike +5d6, Improved Poison Use

10: Ghost Step (Ethereal), +1 AC, Evasion, Ninja Dodge +3

11: Suddem Strole +6d6

12: Acrobatics +10, Evasion, Deflect Arrows, Fast Movement 20ft


From here on out it's the same as the CA Ninja, except that at every level where he gains +1AC from his normal AC bonus, he also gains an additional point of Ninja Dodge Bonus, at 18 his Acrobatics is +15, and also at 18 his fast movement increases to +30ft. Finally, at 20 he gets to hide as a free action after attacking at -10 penalty, as opposed to the normal move action and -20.


Level 1: Change Ki Pool to Int and remove Wis to AC at this level. Ninjas are supposed to be smart, not necessarily all the wise, and it'll cure the MAD problem nicely. We'll give the AC bonus later, so as to make this class not too much of a 1 level dip class.

Also, we'll give the ninja Improved Unarmed Strike like a monk, except it won't increase in damage with level. After all, this guy will be doing his damage with precision damage, not brute force. This won't be a huge bonus, as most weapons will be better, but it's very characterful and lets the ninja let loose with ninja stars and then kick someone in the face. Ninjas should always be able to jump up and kick someone in the face. It's a rule.

We'll also give the ninja Flurry, like a Monk, but while the penalties will eventually go away, he won't get greater flurry, though he will be able to use it with any weapon that the Ninja class gives proficiency with. This A) gives him a reason to use Shurikens over the otherwise superior daggers and B) shouldn't be too strong, as he still has to use invisibility to land his sneak attack lite.

Finally, give him the Rokugan Ninja's Ninja Dodge ability, leveling up as appropriate. This, combined with his AC bonus and Int to AC, should make him relatively survivable (remember, he's not wearing any armour). It will also at least bring him up to around rogue level of close combat ability, which ain't exactly uber. Remember that we expect high level rogues to be wearing Mithral Chain Shirts with Adamantium Dastanas (total of +6 to AC before enchantment), and Ninja Dodge doesn't apply to everyone. This means a ninja will be better defended against single targets, but possibly not as much so against others. He'll have more attacks than a rogue, but have a tougher time making sure his precision damage can actually land. All in all, I'd say that's reasonably balanced.

Level 4: Now, we can add in Int to AC, like a monk but for Int instead of Wis. His AC will go up, as is currently the case for the CA Ninja, at level 5 and follow the same progression. As before, it doesn't stack with monk for this purpose. A

lso, we'll steal from the Rokugan Ninja and give him Speed of Darkness, which lets him add his Int to Initiative.

We'll also give him Slow Fall progression, like a monk, because again it's fun and characterful.

Finally, give him Leap of the Clouds to go along with Great Leap, stolen from Ninja Spy, which makes his jump distance not limited by his height, because we all know ninjas should jump far.

Level 6: A monk of this level gets +20ft run speed, and ninjas should have some speed too, so let's give him half the monk's run speed. +10 at this level, +20 at 12, +30 at 18. It makes sense. Ninjas are fast. We're also going to steal an ability from Rokugan Ninja at level 8 that will help with this.

Second, we're going to improve the Acrobatics ability, bringing it part way between the almost useless ability that the CA ninja gives (+2) and the awesome Ninja Spy version (+10, Balance is included in the list) by including Balance into the bonus and making it +5 at this level, +10 at level 12, and +15 at level 18. After all, ninjas can jump really high, and it's a great character thing, but not exactly overpowered compared to, say, the flight ability that the pure casters have.

7: We're going to edit Speed Climb to remove the bit about needing to begin and end on a horizontal surface, but leave the bit about how if you're not on a horizontal surface, you fall. Also, we'll point out that you need to be on top of said surface. As it reads, as long as you run up to the ceiling, you're good, as that's horizontal too. Nifty, but come on, that's what spider climbing gear is for. Why make this change? Because it means you can end a round in midair, so a ninja could theoretically run up a wall, jump from that wall (round change in midair), hit another wall, run up that for a while, leap again (round change again) and then land on the top of a castle. We'll assume you need two facing walls or at least a corner for this trick, and you could already just speed climb the damn thing, but it's just too cool to forbid it.

Level 8: Shadow Run, stolen from Rokugan Ninja, gives 5X Con modifier as an untyped bonus to movement. We'll say this only applies to normal movement, not flight or anything. This still won't make you as fast as a monk unless your con is through the roof, but it's cool and gets you something decent.

Level 10: Evasion. This is already way later than the other classes get it, and if we put it here then Ninjas can still go through the whole Ninja Spy PrC if they want, which should be possible, and still gives a bunch of abilities that this base class doesn't get, such as even better acrobatics and tons of weapon proficiencies, plus that oh so cool Alter Self at will thing.

We'll also give hide in plain sight. This is where the Wilderness rogues get it, and ninjas seriously need this one.

Level 12: Deflect Arrows. It's mostly a fluff thing, but it's cool, it's taken from Rokugan Ninja, and it keeps things interesting.

Finally, to give him a cool capstone ability, Level 20: Hide as a free action after attacking, at -10. Normally, it's a -20 move action. This ability, by the way, is stolen from the identical Halfling Rogue substitution level that they get at level 10 instead of a standard Rogue ability. It means that at level 20 a ninja can launch a bunch of ninja stars from the shadows without having to burn invisibility uses.

And that's it. Results? Well, now our ninja has a bit less MAD (Still needs strength a bit, Int even more than a rogue, and con more than a rogue, plus of course the almighty dex).

He's also an okay fellow in melee, though nowhere near Barbarian or even Monk level, as he's decent on defense (except for his saves, compared to a monk) but still needs to work hard to make sudden strike work. He's got flurry, though not greater flurry, which makes his number of hits a bit worse than a monk, and his unarmed strike damage is only D6 or, if small, D4 even at level 20, so when he can't connect with Sudden Strike he's not doing anything serious. Thus, worse than a monk in hand to hand when he can't land his precision damage, better when he can, though the former is far more common than the latter. He's also got worse saves than the monk by a good margin. Compared to a rogue, he's got more attacks, but it's harder to do his precision damage, and he can't get opportunist or crippling strike, so again, its a tossup. Honestly, I'd still put it in favor of the rogue most of the time.

He's still lacking on the skill points and skill selection compared to a rogue, but at least he's got some Int synergy to help out.

What he does have, and these are all his own, are a lot of movement related abilities that let him run up walls, jump like crazy, and generally move very very fast, plus he's got hide in plain sight and occasional invisibility when he really really needs it. Considering spellcasters can just teleport, I wouldn't consider any of these abilities overpowered, but they are cool, and there's something to be said for that. He can also see invisible at high level, which is nice, and attack ethereals, which is kinda cool, except that all ethereals, for the most part, are undead, and would find his 1d6 damage with no sneak attack possible absolutely tickling.

So, if you've actually read all that... thoughts? Have I made some ungodly overpowered monstrosity, or does this all seem about right?


2007-01-09, 09:47 PM
I think this rightfully belongs in the homebrew section. Also, they way you presented the information makes it a little hard to visualize as a class. It would help if you presented your entire varient ninja ideas following standard D&D class formatting instead of a list of hypothetical ideas. A level table wouldn't hurt either.

Roland St. Jude
2007-01-09, 09:54 PM
Sheriff of Moddingham: Moved to Homebrew and "PEACH" removed.

P.S. For what it's worth, I agree with ^. Laying out your new ninja in the standard class format would go a long way toward 1) getting people to read it and 2) helping them to understand it.

2007-01-09, 10:14 PM
Edit your post and put in the standard format. Go ahead and keep all the text about why you did it but put it near the bottom.

I would also add the Swordsage to your "Ninja" possibilities. Wis to AC in light Armor, and alot of manuevers especially the shadowhand make the swordsage a possibility of creating a ninja type character with some multiclassing. But since you are trying to create a new base class I would just look at the Swordsage for inspiration.

My own comment, flavor wise the Ninja should get an ability such as insightful strike (3rd lvl Swashbuckler) or a similar one. Of course steps would be needed to perform so that this ability doesn't stack with the Swashbuckler ability, and perhaps make it similar to the Duelist int to ac up to class lvls (or half your class lvls) to prevent other classes for going your new ninja class as a dip class.

2007-01-10, 01:17 AM
While I've noticed that there's always been a lack of worthwhile ninja base classes in D&D since way back in second edition, I think one relatively minor change to the Complete Adventurer ninja base class would make it perfectly playable:

1) Change sudden strike to sneak attack. Ninjas should most certainly be able to use stealth-related tactics in hand-to-hand combat, seeing as how a ninja should most likely be even more melee-savvy than a rogue. Though an actual ninja (a skilled one, anyway) would avoid melee - or even being seen by his enemies - altogether.

On the topic of weapons, fantasy ninjas use ninja-tos, a weapon which to my knowledge never actually existed in the real world (why would a ninja carry around a weapon that would immediately identify him as a ninja to any onlookers?). If you want to use a ninja-to in a D&D game, I'd suggest giving it the stats of a masterwork longsword, since a masterwork bastard sword is a katana and a masterwork short sword is a wakizashi. I guess that would also make a masterwork dagger a tanto? My point is, maybe a ninja should be proficient with a longsword - for ultra-covert operations where anyone who got a good enough glimpse of the ninja-to would have to be silenced anyway - but a ninja who wants to use a katana should have to burn a feat. Or take a level of fighter, to better emulate the samurai he'd be impersonating with said katana.

And as for changing the ninja's focus ability to Int so he gets more skill points, I feel it just moves him towards being a rogue-replacement class. The ninja class - and every other base class - was made for people who wanted something different, there's no reason to have a second rogue class. My solution to the "crappy ninja base class" problem is to do what everyone did before expansion sourcebooks:

1) make a rogue
2) call him a ninja
3) select appropriate feats.

2007-01-10, 08:17 AM
Evasion at level 12?! A multiclass rogue/swordsage (and maybe monk, psi warrior or some prestige) could do much better.

2007-01-13, 01:11 PM
I have to agree that a Ninja ought to burn a Feat to get access to a Katana. Scout's can't even use Long Swords. I would like to see them have Light Armour Proficiency, though, amongst other things...